For a while now, the gender pay gap has been somewhat perceived as a myth and an excuse by the feminist movement. However, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2018 report, the global gender pay gap stands at 68% with only 10 countries worldwide managing to close the gap to 80%. Of the 10, Rwanda and Namibia are the only African countries to make the list.
This gap essentially means that for every Ksh100 a man makes, a woman is likely to make Ksh68 for the same job role. An increase from last year's gap which stood at Sh55. The report looks at four key indices that impact the gap. Access to Education, contribution to economy, political empowerment as well as health and survival
With International Women’s day being marked today, there is a need to look further into the reason behind this gap. According to Waceke Nduati, a gender, diversity and inclusion expert, the gender agenda has taken a woman's face and been mistaken as a struggle between men and women, where women are trying to be men or rarely, men trying to be women. This ends up delaying or hindering the desired pace of progress on achievement of gender equality in all sectors of human interactions.
“Gender equality is about forming a social construct founded on equal rights, of man, woman, girl and boy as members of a wholesome society where each member’s unique self, existence, value and contribution is treated as of equal value without bias based on their biological differences. This clearly means that gender conversations are about socio-economic, environmental and political progress, it’s a society conversation, an inclusion conversation, about having everyone included in society development and progress. Gender equality is about a balanced, wholesome and stable society that allows for nurturing and flourishing of each boy and girl in order to realize their full potential and become resourceful members of their communities and wider society. It is is about equal access to opportunities and challenges that enable each one of us to self-determine and to become,” Waceke points out.
So what can we do to achieve a balance?
Getting rid of customs that disenfranchise the children
According to Unicef, Kenya has the 20th highest absolute number of child brides in the world. 23% of Kenyan girls are married before their 18th birthday and 4% are married before the age of 15. A shocking fact that has had a direct impact on their access to education, contribution to the economy as well as health and survival. Luckily Kenya has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. Progress on this is not yet available to the public.
Rethinking traditional gender roles
“The industrial revolution brought a demarcation between work and home and this demarcation has continued to grow with 1 to 3rd industrial revolution. Society view work as the energy expended to earn a living, so work is paid work and view home where women are ‘expected to be’ as just home but not work, whatever work is done at home is not work because this is unpaid work,” Waceke notes
Secondly society’s mind continues to view women as none or secondary breadwinners yet the demands of the real world today has brought women to the world of paid work as equal or sole breadwinners. Thirdly the society’s mind is on amnesia and has refused to acknowledge that women still bear the burden of homework, that is unpaid work which is even more tedious and requires more effort, energy and women now bear the burden of corporate paid work as breadwinners. Women have to juggle two worlds of work- paid work and unpaid work. A factor that has a direct impact on their contribution and growth in both areas.
Getting more female representation in political leadership
The two thirds gender bill flopped a fourth time in the National Assembly. This a sign of the reluctance by society to accept women in political leadership. Women's participation in politics not only help advance gender equality but also affects the range of policy issues that are considered and solutions proposed. There is strong evidence to suggest that women elected to office have led to a direct increase in policies that emphasize quality of life with priorities in families, women and minorities.
Be more aware and support the unique health needs of the women
Women’s bodies are complex creations and so are their needs. The focus on maternal health services, reproductive health as well as access to affordable sanitary products would have a distinct impact on women’s ability to earn more. 4 in 5 expectant or new mothers who die in hospital receive poor care where a different management may have saved their lives or that of their children. In Kenya, 65 per cent of women and girls cannot afford sanitary pads. Menstruation causes Kenya’s adolescent girls to lose, on average, 3.5 million learning days per month. This equals as much as 20 per cent of a given school year. Many girls drop out of school altogether once they begin menstruating.
All these factors impact gender equality in the workplace which has a direct impact on the economy. Several reports have indicated that a society with gender balance will record a significant increase in GDP and better quality of life. This year as we celebrate balance for better, may these tips guide us towards a better world.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Evewoman.co.ke